The SIU women’s basketball team took its talents to Florida over the weekend but was unable to return home with its first season win.
The Salukis (0-4) competed against Radford University and Florida Atlantic University at the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament in Coral Gables, Fla. SIU played in two different style games, but the end results were the same.
The Salukis faced off against the Radford Highlanders of the Big South Conference Friday. Much like the season’s first three games, the Salukis were unable to keep their opponents off of the free throw line.
Radford (3-2) went to the line 44 times via 27 SIU fouls. The continuing foul issues combined with 21 Saluki turnovers added up to a 85-62 Highlander drub.
SIU started off strong and led 14-10 during the first half, but Radford took control as soon as the Salukis found themselves in foul trouble. The Highlanders ended the first half on a 23-4 run.
Sophomore guard Cartaesha Macklin and sophomore center Alexus Patterson, two integral components of the young team, had to be benched in the first half after committing a combined five fouls.
“We were at 14-10. I felt pretty good about us,” coach Missy Tiber said. “We were settling down and making things happen. Then you have to send (Macklin and Patterson) to the bench for a while and we just aren’t the same basketball team.”
Patterson played only 12 minutes during the entire game, and she finished with eight points and three rebounds. Macklin posted 12 points.
Freshman guard Rishonda Napier played her best game of the season against Radford. She scored 17 points and made three three-pointers, and she turned the ball over only three times.
Freshman forward Jameeka Bouie also posted 17 points, along with five rebounds and three assists.
“Jameeka has been slowly coming along,” Tiber said. “I told my assistant coaches last week that probably soon she needs to be in the starting lineup.”
Radford, like SIU, had only three players who scored in double figures, but the Highlanders out-rebounded the Salukis 44-32, which made a profound difference in the game’s outcome.
Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic (3-2) of the Sun Belt Conference saw Macklin return to point guard, where she played most of her freshman season. Napier subsequently moved to shooting guard. Macklin ended up with 34 points, which brings her to the fifth-highest in SIU history.
“We made some key changes that allowed two players on our team to be better, and I think it made our whole team better,” Tiber said. “Cartaesha has a phenomenal game, and Rishonda went for 12 points and eight rebounds. I think it also made her better.”
However, Macklin’s career-high scoring performance combined with seven rebounds and six assists was not enough for SIU to prevail.
The Salukis led 47-44 at halftime, but they missed key free throws and were unable to stop the Owls in the game’s waning minutes.
Significant contributions also came from freshman forward Dyana Pierre and sophomore guard Mercedes Griffin.
Pierre, one of two Florida natives on the team along with Macklin, brought down 15 rebounds and put up nine points. Griffin was the third SIU player who scored in double figures as she coupled 10 points with seven rebounds.
The Salukis made improvements both on the boards and at the free-throw line, which were two aspects of their game that hindered the team’s flow throughout the season’s first three contests.
SIU out rebounded the Owls 54-39 and made 20 of 27 free throws. Florida Atlantic appeared at the line only five more times than the Salukis.
“You’ve got to give our kids credit,” Tiber said. “They didn’t roll over. They continued to fight.”
The Salukis will return to action at noon Thursday against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne at SIU Arena.